Looking back at the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic in Copiah County

By Paul Cartwright
Toward the end of World War I in Europe, the first stages of the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic began to show up around Copiah County and Hazlehurst. According to Hazlehurst newspaper archives, many people passed away from pneumonia during the summer months of 1918. At the time, no one in Mississippi knew the Spanish flu raged in May, June, and July in Europe.
Starting in October 1918, along with some returning soldiers from the war, the first wave of the virus began to spread. The State of Mississippi and Copiah County issued guidelines to help contain the spread. W. H. Little was the Copiah County health officer at that time. The following were abridged guidelines:
It is important that everyone who becomes ill with the influenza go home immediately and go to bed.
If the patient complains of fever, they should be given water to drink, compresses on the head.
The attendant to the sick must wear a gown over their clothes, and all cloth used on sick was burned.
Overcrowded homes at the time were discouraged, and the value of fresh air from open windows were strongly encouraged.
When crowding was unavoidable, like in streetcars, health officers suggested turning the face away from any exhale from another close person.
Suggested that all homes, offices, and workshops be well aired. Even suggesting walking to work.
The main symptoms were weakness, pain in eyes, ears, head, or back, and feeling sore. Temperatures were also 100 to 104. The sickness was airborne and from particles spread from coughing or sneezing.
Isolation was the best preventative measure, along with “resting and sleeping with windows open.” An abundant diet of milk, eggs, or broth was also suggested.
It was suggested that no visitors be allowed and that country people should not “go visiting.”
Treatments then were quinine and aspirin for severe cases and antiseptic spray in nose and throat.
Masks were encouraged and children were taught to use handkerchiefs.
In Copiah County, the influenza was worse in the county than in the towns. It was suggested that country folk did not observe sufficient precaution in visiting the sick.
Starting during October, more deaths attributed to the virus occurred. Those listed in the newspaper for Hazlehurst were Dr. J.D. Shipp, Thomas M. Henry, Dr. F. L. Furr, Harley Edgar Morrow, and Thomas Leroy Parker. The latter two were young people.
On October 23, 1918, the state board of health stated that all water fountains, drug stores, and other places that served soft drinks, ice cream, or beverages be served. Hot beverages could be served if containers and spoons were sterilized before the same were offered to a customer. Hotels and restaurant proprietors were required to wash all cutlery and boil it for one minute, the same was suggested for all housewives. It was made a misdemeanor with a 50 dollar fine for any public establishments violating the order.
Late in November, a few who had been ill with the Spanish flu survived, those being Henry Granberry, Lee Haley, Sexton Harper, and Cuba Slay Ainsworth.
Finally, everything that was generally done in 1918 is being done now in 2020. The treatments and medicine are different. The precautions that are suggested may be worth looking into. It is strikingly odd that masks were suggested back then. This was also just the first wave of the Spanish flu.